A blog for anyone who understands the joy of writing and receiving handwritten letters.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Penpal Lists

 So I stumbled upon an online penpal list recently, and saw some things that made me ponder.

I was scanning through, thinking that I would put one or two people on my 'write to' list... but I ended up leaving empty handed.

The thing was that everyone had conditions. It was things like "only people who write long letters" or "don't write if you are going to stop after a while", or they would have a very particular list of interests that they only wanted to talk about, or one kind of stationery they were obsessed with.

It wasn't so much that I didn't fit there 'conditions'... it was more that when someone puts these conditions or demands on a penpal relationship, I lose interest. I'd feel like my letters would have to measure up to some kind of standard, and that just kills any enthusiasm I have to write.

I do like writing long letters, but sometimes I might want to dash off a quick one. By the way, how long is a long letter anyway??

I like the randomness of letters... that I never know quite what I'm getting in the mail - a postcard, some mail art, an envelope full of magazine clippings, a long newsy letter, a shopping list, a beautiful card, a menu from a cafe.

I have received all of the above and loved them all. The idea of prescribing what someone should send to me just seems foreign.

Plus I never know what I am going to feel like sending... I guess I'm a mood letter-writer!

I suppose the ones who want only 'committed penpals' have been burned in the past, so it's natural to want to avoid that disappointment. But life doesn't come with guarantees... and you can't anticipate what is going to happen. I dislike the idea of locking myself into some kind of contract before the first letter has even been written.

I think the thing that really bothers me though is the negativity that pervades such ads. Instead of spelling out what they don't want, why not talk about what they really enjoy about snail mail? It would be so much more appealling.

Fortunately, I have gained many fab penpals through this blog so I don't need to worry about the fussy ones.

Love from Kaz


  1. OoooOOOooooo I love any and all letters, Kaz. Long and short, postcards and pages of writing, envies full of treasures or a cd or photo, absolutely anything and everything. No rules. But I do hope that people continue to keep in touch rather than disappear.....but I don't ask....I had a pen pal who wrote me for yearsOne day she wrote and said, with no explanation, she wanted to just stop writing. I didn't know why and I was sad. I waited a year and then wrote her a nice letter asking if we could write again and she said yes--we are back in business! S, you never know what will happen....

  2. I agree! Negative ads like that scare me off because I think that I am going to offend that person in some way or another, so why go through all that drama. I just love writing whatever comes to me without any conditions. :)


  3. During my time browsing when I started writing letters again I saw these "demand" lists all over the place, and I avoided each and every one of them. Like you, I love the erratic nature of letters, that they are written from an emotional standpoint more often than not, to me determines that they will not be about one set thing, or contain only information about certain things that the addressee wants to hear about. I love letters that go off on a tangent, letters that talk solely about one subject, notes, intros, favourite music lists and short snappy postcards. Each letter I get gives me a snippet from someone's life and I'm thankful for their willingness to share that with me. I don't think I could write to demands at all. I can journal to prompts, but letters are so "of the moment" and I think that's the way they should be.

  4. Well, it looks like I am not alone! Lovely to see that the spirit of random, emotional, quirky letters is alive and well.

  5. Hi Kaz,

    Just came across your blog the other day and put your address in my address book to write one of those "first" letters to you -- but knowing my letter writing habits, it could be a while before I actually DO write the letter.

    But I know all too well the thrill of getting a comment on my blog and wanted to let you know while it's still on my mind how much I can relate to this post (and many other posts on your blog, too!).

    I have been so disappointed with all of the RULES RULES RULES so many people have for letter writing/pen pal requests -- also very disappointing when it appears as though I've met a good pen pal match and then I get nothing from them. (Was I not interesting enough? Was my stationery choice not "cool" enough? Did I offend someone, somehow? etc.)

    It's a strange sort of peer pressure, too, as I have read so many letter-writing blogs where people seem to demand lots of ephemera or specific cutesy stationery.

    I think everyone who has had any sort of experience with pen pals has been burned in the past, as you have said -- but I also wonder why the benefit of the doubt isn't extended to these absent pen pals by these negative folks: random, terrible things happen in life ALL THE TIME. Priorities are rearranged, major life shifts occur -- and of course, things get lost in the mail.

    It's wonderful to learn from the comments here as well that there are letter writers out there who have no "rules" when it comes to receiving mail; it pleases my inner anarchist.

    When I got back into letter writing a few years ago, I participated in an online penpal swap, receiving 3 addresses and getting 3 others sent to me. I am in touch with only one of those (have picked up others along the way) and all the others disappeared -- but that one regular pen pal is a complete and utter treasure, and I am so grateful for our irregular correspondence.

  6. Hi Carrie. You're absolutely right - it's lovely to get comments. I really like it when I share something that seems to strike a chord or hit a nerve and a healthy discussion ensues! I like the sound of the 'inner anarchist' - that's how I feel too. Sending good mail is about breaking the rules and expressing yourself!

    Very much looking forward to your 'first' litter... whenever it arrives. :)

  7. Too busy to write a real comment, but I want to come out of lurking for a moment to write: Hear, hear!